From the Rector
For as long as I’ve been a leader in Christian ministry (12 years ordained, another 8 years before that), I’ve been interested in what makes Christian communities strong, vital and transformational. What is it that makes some communities radiate a sense of being alive, while other communities, which could be only a few miles away, struggle and often give off the sense of decline?
No matter the community that I was a part of: youth ministry, young adult ministry, camp and conference, diocesan, small parish, medium parish, large parish, I’ve always been curious about what makes it go, and go well. My experience is that most of us have been in a Christian community and been able to have a sense that, to paraphrase Oakland native Gertrude Stein, “there’s a there there.” (N.B., This native son of Oakland knows that Stein was referring to the loss of her childhood home when she talked about no “there there.” Another facet of her brilliant saying that this quote is more often used to show is that we can often tell when a place or community is real and alive if it has a “there.”)
This interest in congregational vitality grew exponentially when I arrived at All Souls in 2008. Though I had been a priest for five years, I hadn’t served as the primary leader of a congregation yet and immediately felt the steepness of that learning curve. I quickly reached out to some colleagues in the area, all priests in new calls who were part of interesting, vital parishes. We began a study group that used books on leadership, church dynamics, and change as lenses to the work we were engaged with in our congregations. It has been a phenomenal, grounding, and inspiring experience that I look to continue as long as I am in ministry.
After a few years at All Souls, when the growth of the parish began to significantly affect our structures and practices, I began to look for ways to not only develop my leadership but also the wider leadership in the congregation. It was this search that led us to the College of Congregational Development in the Diocese of Olympia in the Seattle area. The work that we began nearly a year ago has transformed the way that I lead and practice as a priest, both in depth and in breadth.
Along the way, I have been asked to share some of our experience with seminary classes at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (the Episcopal seminary up the hill) and Pacifiic School of Religion (the inter-denominational seminary also up the hill). This process of reflection and teaching has also deepened my ongoing study and affirmed in me this sense that not only is “there a there there,” but that there are principles and practices that can be learned in order to create the space for life-giving Christian community to exist.
When I was called to be the Rector of All Souls, the Vestry offered what was at the time a unique way to spend sabbatical time. The standard approach has been to take six months in the seventh year of a call. All Souls, though, offered a practice more in line with the academic approach more common in this community: to take three or four months every three or four years. It is a practice now being adopted by more congregations in our diocese for a few reasons: parishes and priests often found that six months was too long, priests weren’t lasting until the seventh year to take sabbaticals, and this regular time for reflection for both the parish and the priest can be fruitful.
As you may remember, in the fall of 2011, Sarah, the boys and I travelled to Oxford, England on sabbatical. There I studied intentional Christian community using the Wesleys of the 18th century and the Oxford Movement of the 19th century as lenses. When I returned I felt able to preach and teach from a space of greater depth and wider perspective.
For this sabbath time, in keeping with the work I’ve begun in the Rector study group and the teaching I’ve offered at CDSP, I will be studying congregational vitality. Part of this time will be spent as part of our eight person team returning to the College for Congregational Development in Seattle. And a good deal more will be reading, reflecting and writing. So far the books that I’ve set aside for this time are about: congregational dynamics, broad-scale cultural changes and the church, corporate and personal spiritual practices, theology, and leadership. The challenge hasn’t been, “what books will I bring during this time,” instead it has been, “what will I leave behind?”
When I realized that the practices of congregational vitality are what I wanted to spend time studying, it became clear that I can read, reflect and write from nearly anywhere in the world. And so after conversation with Sarah and the boys, I will be spending this time on the road and in the wild, from Arizona to Montana and back.
I will be posting my reflections regularly (as regularly as cell phone signal and wifi allows), so that anyone at All Souls and in our wider community who is interested can follow along. You will be able to subscribe directly or follow the posts when they are linked in the Pathfinder.
In all, please know that I will be keeping All Souls in my thoughts and prayers daily. I feel incredibly fortunate to experience the trust and faith of this parish – it is a humbling privilege to serve All Souls. I am looking forward to what comes of this time for the parish as a whole and for me as a leader. And I really cannot wait to see what will be on the other side when I return after Labor Day to this vital and engaging Christian community.
Next week: what will be happening back at the ranch…
Blessing of the Bicycles
It’s morning. Your bag is packed, windbreaker on, you give everyone a kiss and step out the door. Maybe fog, maybe sun. Retrieve your bike from the garage, helmet on, take a deep breath, and go. Your body takes over, your mind loosens its grip on the circles of words it’s been spinning. Wind on your face, your peripheral vision sharpens, your legs find their rhythm and your heart is beating harder now. As you merge onto a larger street, like a stream feeding into a river, you hear a mourning dove, then a few seconds later you see that it’s a pair of them, and they lift off from a telephone wire and fly over the tree to your right. Several cars pass. Your legs keep pedaling as you look ahead, but your thoughts linger with the doves. And you realize you feel an affinity with them, with the doves, at least for a moment. Fellow creatures moving through the landscape. After twenty more minutes of pedaling, of breathing, of leaning through the turns, you’ve got sweat on your brow and you’re at work. Or school. Or church!
On May 17th, All Souls will hold the second annual Blessing of the Bicycles. We invite you to ride your bike to the Sunday service if you are able, or to bring it with you if you live too far away to ride. All bicycles and riders are welcome and will be blessed immediately following the 11:15 service, including those for whom All Souls is not a regular destination. Please contact Malcolm Plant if you would like to post the flyer below at your regular gathering spots, physical or online.
In last week’s Pathfinder, Father Phil wrote that the Vestry has endorsed three areas of focus for Christian action and practice over the next 2-3 years. One of these is titled “Honoring Creation: Faithfully Responding to Climate Change.” We believe that it is our responsibility to acknowledge our complicity in the ecological degradation caused by human activity, including the impacts of climate change, and to take steps to address them. Doing so aligns with the vision of our Diocese and national Episcopal leadership, with an awakening interfaith community, and with other brave souls working to address the climate crisis. Over the next several months, we will identify opportunities both big and small for each of us to engage in these issues as a Parish, in our own lives, and in partnership with other organizations.
The good work is already underway. Soon, solar panels will be installed on the roof of the sanctuary, reducing our carbon footprint for years to come (many thanks to the Parishioners and staff who made this a reality). Harnessing the power of the sun on a large scale to shift away from fossil fuels is absolutely critical. For me, harnessing our very own muscle power is just as personally resonant. Walking, running, and riding a bike are small, routine acts of locomotion, but they symbolize the potential for low-carbon lifestyles that ground us in Creation – both literally and in unforeseen ways, such as chance encounters with mourning doves.
So strap on your helmets, hop on your bikes, and join us for the next stop on this journey, the Blessing of the Bicycles on May 17th!
From the Stewardship Committee
Good things are happening in this place. All Souls Parish is vibrant, thriving, and growing in good works of the Spirit. As you may know, several years ago, through prayer and discernment, we chose to step out in faith and invest in the growth of our parish and the future of All Souls. Our commitment to continually drawing closer to God through our worship and formation, our love and care for one another and our witness in the world around us led us to approve a three-year plan that involved increasing our services from two to three, adding a formation hour for all ages, expanding our pastoral care capabilities, enriching the lives in our community and inviting others to journey with us. Now halfway through our three-year plan, we are beginning to reap the fruits of our commitment to invest in the growth of the parish. To continue on this path, putting God’s Love in Action, we are launching a spring financial appeal, and you will soon receive further details of this campaign.
God’s inclusive love is abundant, and there are innumerable, tangible signs of this Love in Action in our community, one of which is the recent launch of the All Souls Gospel Choir. Madeline Feeley describes her involvement in the choir as follows: “To me, Gospel Choir is the most fun you can have in church. It’s upbeat, filled with raw emotion, and fueled by praise and thanksgiving. It feels like pure, no-frills worship; it allows me to approach God as fully, truly myself.” This is one example of how we strive to express the love of Christ in new ways, with gratitude, together.
This Sunday, and for several weeks to come, you will hear more about our campaign and parishioners’ reflections on our endeavors to put God’s Love in Action as we serve, seek, and worship together in this place.
—Grace Telcs, Stewardship Chair
On behalf of the All Souls Stewardship Committee
The Generosity of Receiving
I love how the stories found in scripture teach us how to be generous. There are so many facets to being generous and the authors of the scriptures spend a great deal of energy introducing us to as many as they can. We heal, work for justice, seek reconciliation, offer forgiveness, and we share all things in common. What I want to talk about briefly here is the facet of generosity called “receiving.”
You see, we are also the recipients of generosity.
We receive it. How is it that I have missed this aspect to being a member of the Body of Christ? We do not simply receive grace by some metaphysic but through every touch, gift of time, or act of kindness offered to us.
It can be a bit of a shock to realize just how much one needs help. Receiving generosity can feel diminishing for some of us. I want to be self-reliant. I assume it is my responsibility to take care of myself come what may. What if my assumptions change a little and part of that reliance is a reliance upon The Body, one another?
This is what I’ve been thinking about since our son was born on April 11. So many have stepped in and generously offered themselves even when I did not know I was in need. You have fed us. You have embraced us. You have given us room when we needed it.
With every gift, Trish and I have said to our son, “Elias, you are so loved. Look at how many people love you.” And, of course, by extension, you are loving us.
So, this reflection is also an elaborate thank you note to you, All Souls. Thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for your generosity. We are graced to have received it.
– Tripp Hudgins
If your last name is Brochard or Oneto, do not click this link.
If you are anyone else, please follow this link and get busy!
Mt. Cross Day Camp
There’s still time to sign your kids up for Mt. Cross day camp! This year it’s June 15-19, and once again in collaboration with Shepherd in the Hills Lutheran Church. The camp is for kids who have completed kindergarten through 6th grade. It’s $150 for the week, and scholarships are available. There are registration packets in the narthex, and you can email Liz with questions.
New Member Welcome Ceremonies
All Souls Parish will welcome new members during each of the worship services on Sunday, May 17. If you would like to be recognized as a new member, please contact Betsy Dixon.
Continuing the Feast
Join us for brunch between the 9 and 11:15 services (roughly 10:10a) on Pentecost, May 24th.
Confirmations at Grace Cathedral
Join us on Saturday, June 6th at 11a to support All Soulsians for their confirmation or reaffirmation at Grace Cathdedral. More information available here.
Save the Date for Big Sur!
Watch for sign-up information coming soon – our parish camping trip is July 17-19!